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Art, Healthy Eats Meet Up At Sunspot Fresh Bar In St. Pete

The 600 block of Central Avenue is a cool place for artsy boutiques and galleries, and alleyways that give way to the unexpected delights of the broad, eye-popping brush strokes of murals painted on the blank canvas of outdoor walls.

"It's certainly a place that draws a lot of art," says Ann Shuh. "We have a lot of unique boutiques. We have murals on every block."

Shuh is the owner of Sunspot Fresh Bar, a new health food eatery that fits snugly into the 600 block's hip niche in downtown St. Petersburg. The restaurant, at 601 Central Ave., is home to a rotating gallery of work by local artists, notably Derek Donnelly, the founder of the artist-cooperative Saint Paint Arts and Sunspot's art curator.

Sunspot is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Shuh plans soon to offer beer and wine and add evening hours.

The continental-style breakfast menu includes an assortment of pastries, yogurt, granola and oatmeal. For lunch, customers can grab a wrap or salad to go, or stay awhile to enjoy art and conversation. The salad bar, wraps and sandwiches offer organic, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.

"Our concept is very simple," Shuh says. "We buy at a number of local markets. Our produce is always fresh."

The "fresh bar" of salad ingredients is open until 2 p.m.

The artwork is a special treat for customers. In addition to paintings by Donnelly, including three of his murals,  artwork by Sean Young is currently on display. Work will change regularly.

"They'll see many different styles," Shuh says. "We hope (Sunspot Fresh Bar) will be a place that tourists (and others) will come to and take home art with them."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Ann Shuh, Sunspot Fresh Bar

St. Pete Art & Fashion Week Struts Stuff For Warehouse Arts District

Showcasing St. Petersburg's creative talent is a passion of Dona Crowley, a marketing entrepreneur and aficionado of the city's evolving sophistication as a center for art and fashion.

Four years ago she launched the St. Pete Art & Fashion Week to put the spotlight on the artists and designers who live and work in St. Petersburg. This year's events kick-off with an Opening Night Party at 7 p.m. Sept. 15 at Muscato's Bella Cucina, 475 Central Ave., in the Kress building.

A series of art shows at different venues will continue through the week, concluding on Sept. 20 with a fashion runway show at One Progress Plaza. Among featured fashions are Chateau De Curb Gear, Helen Gerro, Boutique La Rochelle, Cerulean Blu and Purabell House of Fashion.

The nonprofit Warehouse Arts District will receive a portion of the week's proceeds to aid in purchasing the former Ace Recyling Compound at 22nd Street South and Fifth Avenue South. Six warehouses and offices will be converted to working space for artists of all mediums.

Approximately $350,000 is needed by Nov. 1. A closing date on the pending contract could be as soon as mid-December.

"This would be the perfect thing to get involved in and get things started off," says Crowley, owner of Luxe Fashion Group and VM Magazine. She also organizes other fashion charity events including Tampa Bay Swim Week and Cars & Couture.

Crowley is enthused by St. Petersburg's new spirit of growth. 

More residents are moving into apartments and condominiums. Boutiques, galleries, restaurants, bars and start-up businesses are opening in the downtown core.

And St. Petersburg's reputation as center for art and innovation is growing, Crowley says.

"We really want to promote that and let people know (artists) are there and drive traffic to St. Petersburg,"  she says. "The art was always there. Now with the growth of the city artists are becoming more well known and getting more exposure and hopefully their businesses are doing better."

Warehouse Arts District President Mark Aeling says plans for the arts district's proposed campus include offices, classrooms, a large gallery space, a foundry, recording studio and rehearsal space, and a possible micro-brew pub. About 20,000 square feet would be renovated as air-conditioned, affordable studio space for artists including photographers, painters and graphic artists. Larger spaces would be available for metal workers, sculptors and mixed media artists.

"The development of the ‘Warehouse Arts Enclave’ will ensure that there is affordable studio space for artists in St. Petersburg as the city continues to develop," Aeling says.

General admission for St. Pete Art & Fashion Week varies from no charge to $35. Tickets are currently available online for discounted prices prior to the event week. A limited number of VIP Wristbands are available for $80 and include entry to all events including the wrist-band only Opening Night Party. Guests with wristbands also will have front row seating for the fashion runway show as well as discounts at participating restaurants, bars and boutiques in downtown St. Petersburg.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Mark Aeling, Warehouse Arts District; Dona Crawley, St. Pete Art & Fashion Week

St. Petersburg Emergency Shelter Seeks Art Donations

The staff at CASA wants their future emergency shelter to bring sunshine and hope to the hundreds of families and individuals who need to escape domestic violence.

They also want to create a safe haven that is warm and comforting. And to do that, CASA is asking local artists to fill the shelter's rooms and walls with their donated artwork. Paintings, sculptures, multi-media are all welcome.

"We'd like the art to give the shelter a homey, friendly atmosphere," says Susan Nichols, CASA's grants and compliance coordinator.. "We hope it will be a peaceful environment, bright and cheerful. We have a lot of blank wall space."

Construction on the 40,000-square-foot building is under way, just north of downtown St. Petersburg. The expected opening of the shelter will be in late July 2015. A public showing of the donated art also is planned.

CASA is being aided with its "call to artists" by the nonprofit St. Petersburg Arts Alliance.

Funding for the approximately $10 million project is from multiple sources including state and federal grants and tax credits. 

CASA, which was founded nearly four decades ago, currently operates a shelter with 30 beds and aids about 300 families and individuals a year. But Nichols says they have 1,400 requests for help annually that must be referred to other shelters in Pinellas or Hillsborough counties. "Unfortunately many times they are full there also," Nichols says.

The new shelter will nearly triple capacity with 100 beds in 50 bedrooms. There also will be a children's area, teen room, meeting room, a large conference room, offices, playground, outdoor areas and gardens.

Nichols expects about 800 individuals will be given shelter each year. The additional space and the building's design mean more families and men can be accommodated, she says.

Art donations are being accepted through April 10, 2015, at CASA's administrative office, at 1011 First Ave., N.  They are tax deductible as in-kind contributions.

Paintings and photographs should be framed. Murals preferably should be mobile art whether on canvas, wood or other hard surfaces. Textile pieces likely will be displayed in office areas rather than in bedrooms.

Arrangements can be made for the art to be picked up by sending an email to CASA, or calling 727-895-4912, Ext. 100.

CASA reserves the right to reject art that displays violence.

Each art work at the new shelter will be labeled with the artist's name and the work's title. The donations also will be recognized on CASA's website and its Facebook page.

None of the art will be resold but it will be exhibited at a public showing in late April 2015, Nichols says.

"We think it will be a great gift to show the community," she says..

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Susan Nichols, CASA

What's Your Fave Renovation? Think St. Petersburg Preservation Awards

The building boom that will bring modern residential towers to downtown St. Petersburg is getting a lot of attention. But for many, the city's charm is in its architectural history and diversity.

Saint Petersburg Preservation, Inc., is ready to celebrate the best of St. Petersburg. The nonprofit is accepting nominations for the 2014 Preservation Awards. The awards recognize people, associations and businesses for their efforts to preserve, restore and complement the city's architectural history and sense of place.

Some past winners are preservationists of the Mirror Lake Lyceum, the Historical Kenwood Neighborhood Association and the owner of a 1920s bungalow and carriage house on Bay Street.

"They give a unique character to St. Petersburg that makes people want to come here," says Monica Kile, executive director of the preservation agency.

Nominations are accepted until Sept. 15. The award ceremony will be Oct. 24 at the Studio@620. There also will be an exhibit and sale of watercolor paintings of area landmarks by local artist Robert Holmes.

There are four categories: residential and commercial restoration and rehabilitiation; compatible infill; adaptive reuse; and residential and commercial stewardship. Also an award will be given to Preservationist of the Year. Descriptions of each category are available at the SPP website

“The Preservation Awards are a great way to highlight our community’s landmarks and for neighborhoods to take pride in the buildings and features that make their area unique and special,” says Logan Devicente, SPP’s awards program chair.  

While historic restorations are important, reuse of buildings and compatible infill also play a role in preservation, Kile says.

"We encourage good design that fits with the city," says Kile. "That can be a very modern design."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Monica Kite and Logan Devicente, Saint Petersburg Preservation

Sundial Tenants Include Florida-Based Retailers

Florida talent will have the chance to shine at Sundial amid the latest national, regional and local retailers added to the upscale mall's tenant portfolio.

Sundial, owned by The Edwards Group, replaces the defunct Baywalk shopping complex at 153 Second Ave. N., in downtown St. Petersburg.

Tracy Negoshian & His, Florida Jean Company, Happy Feet, juxatapose apparel & studio, The Shave Cave and Jackie Z. Style Co., all have Florida or hometown connections. Other retailers recently announced by The Edwards Group are lululemon, L.O.L. Kids, Tommy Bahama, Swim 'n Sport and Marilyn Monroe Glamour Room.

Diamonds Direct is a previously announced tenant.

In the restaurant category, Ruth's Chris Steakhouse and Sea Salt, are joining Farmtable Kitchen and Locale Market.

Rounding out the list are Chico's, White House Black Market and Muvico 19 + IMAX. All are holdovers from Baywalk.

Most shops will have "soft" openings by September. The restaurants and market will open by Thanksgiving.

“I am thrilled with the mix of retailers and restaurants we have been able to assemble,” says Sundial owner Bill Edwards, president of The Edwards Group.  “We have businesses that truly represent what a downtown shopping destination should be."

Jackie Zumba is among the Florida-based retailers who landed at Sundial.

For two years Zumba's shop, Jackie Z. Style Co., has been named "best boutique" by Sarasota Magazine. Zumba, 27, opened her men's and women's clothing boutique on Sarasota's Main Street in 2011 and will soon move into the new Mall at University Town Center. Her high-end brands include Moods of Norway, Psycho Bunny and Mr. Turk.

At 3,000 square feet, Zumba's Sundial shop will be nearly double the size of her original Sarasota store. "It will mean more room for men's suits, more high-end dresses, shoes and accessories," she says.

She was selective when it came to finding a second location. Miami didn't make the grade but a trip to St. Petersburg and a stroll along Beach Drive convinced her. 

"I was looking for something of Sarasota's local feel," she says. "(St. Petersburg) is a tight knit community that supports small businesses. I'm really excited to be part of it. The community seems excited. It's a good mix."

Other Florida-based notables include Tracy Negoshian & His, featuring trendy clothes for the entire family in designs with bold colors and prints. The St. Petersburg-based designer has hundreds of boutiques around the country including a flagship store in Naples.

Happy Feet got its start selling comfort footwear, including Birkenstock and Dansko, in St. Petersburg in the 1980s. There are nine stores now in St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Juxtapose apparel & studio opened its first store in Hyde Park Village in Tampa in 2011. The shop offers women's contemporary fashions, home decor, and off-beat, one-of-a-kind artisan pieces.

The Shave Cave is the first hair salon from St. Petersburg founders of Mens Direct, which sells grooming products. Customers can sip craft beer, fine wine or whiskey while getting haircuts and hot towel shaves.

Florida Jean Company got off the ground nearly eight years ago as a home-based seller of preworn jeans scrounged from yard sales and thrift shops. Today the St. Pete Beach-based retailer sells everything from designer jeans to hats and shoes and board shorts. A shop opened on Ybor City's Seventh Avenue last year.

Celebrated Chef Fabrizio Aielli has owned several restaurants ranked among the top in the nation including Osteria Goldoni and Teatro Goldoni. He moved to Florida and opened Sea Salt in 2008 in Naples. One year later Esquire named  it one of the nation's top 20 best new restaurants.  Sundial is Aielli's second Florida location for Sea Salt.

Farmtable Kitchen and Locale Market is a creative partnership between California-based chef Michael Mena and former New York-based chef Don Pintabona who is now living in St. Petersburg. Pintabona also is a graduate of the University of South Florida.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bill Edwards, Sundail; Jackie Zumba, Jackie Z. Style Co.

Old Warehouses To Be Renovated For Artists' Studios

The Warehouse Arts District Association is ready to launch an innovative plan to expand and preserve a growing artists' colony within an industrial warehouse district in St. Petersburg.

The nonprofit association has signed a contract to buy the former Ace Recyling Compound, a collection of six warehouses and offices at the corner of 22nd Street South and 5th Avenue South. The approximately 50,000 square feet would be developed as the Warehouse Arts Enclave, offering working space for artists working in all medium from painting to metal work and sculpture.

Other uses include offices, classrooms, a large gallery space, a foundry, recording studio and rehearsal space, and a possible micro-brew pub.

"It's going to be completely transformative for the arts community," says association President Mark Aeling. He owns MGA Sculpture Studios in the Warehouse Arts District. "It's going to expand the arts district as a destination for people interested in finding out about art, how it is made. It's going to put St. Petersburg on the map."

By November 1 association members hope to raise $350,000. If so, a closing date on the deal could happen by mid-December. Potential funding could come from the city through a federally supported Community Development Block Grant. Fundraisers and donations from art patrons also will be sought.

"The development of the ‘Warehouse Arts Enclave’ will ensure that there is affordable studio space for artists in St. Petersburg as the city continues to develop," Aeling says.

About 20,000 square feet would be renovated as air-conditioned, affordable studio space for artists including photographers, painters and graphic artists. Larger spaces would be available for metal workers, sculptors and mixed media artists.

"What we're trying to do is create a studio compound that is accessible to a wide variety of medium styles," Aeling says. "And, that is unique."

Other plans are being discussed. Because the Pinellas Trail loops through the district, an "Arts Gateway to St. Pete" with murals and artwork could tie in with the trail and bring visitors into the enclave. Among close neighbors to the trail are the Morean Arts Center for Clay and Duncan McClellan Glass.

Aeling foresees the Warehouse Arts Enclave as a "second-day destination" for visitors to St. Petersburg. On the first day there are the waterfront, The Dali Museum, the Chihuly Collection, and in the future, the Museum of American Arts and Crafts. But he says, "Where art is made becomes a second-day destination. That puts heads in beds and fills restaurants. It's a huge economic driver."

To help with fund-raising or make a donation, email Where Art Is Made.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Mark Aeling, Warehouse Arts District Association

Brooklyn South Deli Opens In St. Petersburg

Locally farmed cheeses are a passion for Brooklyn South Deli owner Matt Bonano.

His delicatessen at 1437 Central Avenue is a new arrival in downtown St. Petersburg, open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Bonano says he will make adjustments to hours of operation and menu items based on customer response.

Customers can buy by the pound to take home or order salads, sandwiches and melts freshly made at the shop including a cheddar and fig jam sandwich. Bonano also has a charcuterie station and makes his own braised pulled pork and jerk chicken. Turkey, smoked salmon and tuna also are on the menu.

Specialty items include jams, jellies, chutneys and home-made kettle cooked potato chips. The deli offers mainly take-out but limited seating is available. The walls are decorated with cheese labels Bonano has collected since the 1990s.

The Brooklyn transplant is excited about St. Petersburg's energized downtown scene and the influx of new residents. 

"We fell in love with the place. We had a vision," says Bonano who is a chef and studied culinary arts at the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. "St. Petersburg is exploding with a lot of culture. It's also getting a lot younger. There are more foodies and people who travel around and enjoy fine foods. People are realizing it's not just a retirement area anymore."

Early on, his career path as a chef took a slight detour one day at Alon's Bakery & Market in Atlanta when a tall tub of French blue cheese (Fourme d'Ambert) arrived. It was a gooey mess that other employees stepped away from.

"To me it was love at first sight," says Bonano. "I was entranced by it."

He read everything he could find about artisan cheese making.

And eventually he became wholesale production manager for Murray's Cheese.

Currently he serves on the judging and competition committee of the American Cheese Society, an industry organization that promotes American cheese production.

"We try to promote the American artisan movement," Bonano says. "Cheese is at the top of the heap."

But he says there also is support for a return to small farms and locally grown meats from cattle, hogs, goats and fisheries.

In the future, Bonano plans to host small cheese parties at Brooklyn South Deli once a week after the deli is closed. He would like the deli to be a gathering place. "We'll talk food, talk cheese, have champagne or glasses of wine," he says.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Matt Bonano, Brooklyn South Deli

USF, All Children's Hospital Partner For Research Center

A research, education and training facility is now in the planning stages following a land transfer by the University of South Florida to the All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine in St. Petersburg.

USF officials signed over 1.4 acres of land to the hospital as a gift. In return USF received $2.5 million in state funds as part of an overall agreement worked out among state officials, legislators and the governor's office. The land was deeded by the state to USF in April with the understanding that it would then be transferred to the hospital by late June.

The transferred land, at 601 Fourth St., is next to All Children's Outpatient Care Center and the Children's Research Institute.

The facility will focus on research and innovations in pediatric care and childhood diseases. In partnership with All Children's, USF officials anticipate opportunities for the university's medical students for training, pediatric residency and expanded education for health science undergraduates, graduates and postdoctoral fellows.

"This collaboration shows the sustained commitment of both organizations to provide the best training for USF Health medical students and all our residents and strengthen the USF Health pediatric residency program affiliation with All Children's Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine," says Jonathan Ellen, president and physician in chief as well as pediatrics professor and vice dean at All Children's.

State records regarding the land deal indicate plans for an approximately 300,000-square-foot facility at an estimated cost of $65 million to $85 million, creation of about 400 design and construction jobs, and more than 20 staff and faculty positions.

But hospital officials say there are no details on the facility or a construction date as yet.

"You had a dream, you didn't want to start and it not happen," says Roy Adams, All Children's communications director. "It's like we're happy to be given the property so now we can start planning."

Nearly three years ago the private, not-for-profit All Children's Hospital became the first hospital outside of the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area to join the prestigious Johns Hopkins Health System. A U.S. News & World Report Best Children's Hospital ranked All Children's in the top 50 in three specialty areas.

The University of South Florida is a Top 50 research university in total research expenditures among both public and private institutions nationwide, according to the National Science Foundation. 

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Jonathan Ellen and Roy Adams, All Children's Hospital-St. Petersburg

Sundial In Downtown St. Pete Adds Locale Market And Farmtable Kitchen

A grand foodie hall and a full-service restaurant from celebrity chefs Michael Mina and Don Pintabona are the newest announced tenants at Sundial, the reincarnation of the former Baywalk shopping complex in downtown St. Petersburg.

Locale Market and Farmtable Kitchen are anticipated to open by fall in 20,000 square feet located on two levels of Sundial, next to Muvico 20 Theater. The concept is built around delivering fresh foods straight from the farm, or the boat, to the table.

Shoppers can buy everything they need to cook a meal at home from selections of vegetables, fruits, cheeses, fish, meats, seafoods and wines sold at Locale. Or they can sit down and dine at Farmtable, selecting dishes from fresh, seasonably created menus.

"We want to be known for doing simple things very well," says Pintabona, who is a graduate of the University of South Florida and opened actor Robert De Niro's Tribeca Grill in New York in the 1990s. He also is a frequent guest on The Food Network and CBS Morning Show.

Mina is a San Francisco-based restaurateur who is a James Beard award winner and Bon Apetit Chef of the Year. He founded the Mina Group, which operates some 20 restaurants across the country including in San Francisco, Miami and Las Vegas. 

Locale and Farmtable will be a fusion of Mina's California modern with Pintabona's New York Italian influences.

The market will be on the ground floor; the restaurant including a charcuterie, full-service delicatessen, bakery, coffee bar and wine bar will be on the plaza level.

The design, with weathered-style woods and metal highlights, is in keeping with Pintabona's philosophy -- keep it simple. 

"It is very comfortable, very inviting, very approachable," says Linda Ellsworth, Executive VP of Architecture and Interiors at the St. Louis-based Kuhlmann design Group, Inc., which is assisting with the project. "It really will have a chameleon type feel."

An open floor plan allows a flow from market to restaurant. "You do feel like you're being hugged by the market," Ellsworth says.

Several years ago, Mina and Pintabona came up with their market and restaurant concept and hoped to open in lower Manhattan near the site of the former World Trade Center. "For whatever reason, it never really happened," says Pintabona. "We put it on the shelf for a little bit."

The offer from The Edwards Group to be an anchor tenant at Sundial is the right timing for the chefs and St. Petersburg. 

"I was pleased when I visited after many years to see how the city has transformed itself into a really great place," Pintabona says. "I think it's a very exciting time for the city."

Downtown is a  mecca of trendy restaurants, shops, museums and galleries. Beach Drive is a destination. News of residential and condominium towers ready to re-shape the skyline arrives almost weekly.

"Thousands of people live, study, work and visit here, and more on the way," says Sundial Owner Bill Edwards. "St. Petersburg needs a market like Locale Market. We've got nothing like it."

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bill Edwards, Sundail; Linda Ellsworth, Kuhlman Design; Don Pintabona, Locale Market and Farmtable Kitchen

Tampa Bay Innovation Center Opens TEC Garage

Up to 30 start-up businesses in science and other fields will be nurtured at TEC Garage, a new incubator opening in August on the campus of St. Petersburg College.

The venture is under the tutelage of the Largo-based Tampa Bay Innovation Center, an innovation and entrepreneurship center for technology businesses.

TEC Garage, which stands for Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, will occupy about 6,000 square feet on the ground floor of the college's Downtown Center at 244 2nd Ave. N. in St. Petersburg. The new incubator will offer space for new businesses in science, technology, engineering, arts and digital media. Three clients have been signed: Toonari Media, which uses social media and online resources to conduct investigations,  Dock-n-Lock, which offers methods to reduce texting and other distractions while driving, and My OnCall Doc, which is an on-demand video provider for physician services.

The location is only the beginning of a broader vision for encouraging startups amid an explosion of business and residential growth in downtown St. Petersburg.

"It seems to be ... an entire renaissance, something bringing new growth to St. Petersburg and something very exciting," says Tonya Elmore, president of Tampa Bay Innovation Center.

The anticipation is for 15 to 30 new businesses to settle into the TEC Garage. About 40 to 80 people can work there depending on how the space is designed.

“We want to give our local entrepreneurs every resource and tool they need to thrive, and believe this program will help create and keep jobs right here in our community," Elmore says.

There will be reserved office space for rent and coworking space. And Elmore says TEC Garage will offer something not every incubator provides -- coaching for individual clients.

The incubator will operate at the college for at least three to five years. The long-range goal is to move into a permanent downtown location in a much larger building of about 40,000 square feet. There could be opportunities for the college location to continue as a satellite office.

"This is a natural complement to the college's values of leadership, innovation and partnership," says Bill Law, president of St. Petersburg College.  

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Tonya Elmore, Tampa Bay Innovation Center; Bill Law, St. Petersburg College

New Contemporary Art Studio Moves Into South Tampa

The boutiques, art galleries and restaurants along MacDill Avenue, just north of Bay to Bay Boulevard, are bringing a new vibe to to one of South Tampa's main thoroughfares.

On May 31 a new contemporary art gallery -- CASS (Contemporary Art Space and Studio) -- will be the latest arrival on the neighborhood scene, starting off with exhibits by Los Angeles artist Michael Turchin and Tampa artist Chris Valle.

Husband and wife duo, Cassie and Jake Greatens, believe Tampa is on the verge of a "big city" re-invention of itself. And South MacDill is part of that transformation. It's why they chose this location, at 2722 S. MacDill, to open their first art gallery.

They see the potential for MacDill to become to South Tampa what Central Avenue is to downtown St. Petersburg, a place where the funky and creative get together in a walkable community with art crawls and food tours. 

"We're headed in the right direction," says Cassie Greatens. "There is a population here that wants that. When you have that kind of energy, anything can happen."

Long-time MacDill anchors are Beef O' Brady's and the Salvation Army discount store. But upscale interior designers, a yoga studio, restaurants and boutiques are changing the landscape.

Their front door opens into a spacious, all white gallery with a smaller, intimate space in the rear of the building. It was formerly work space for Michael Murphy Gallery, located across the avenue.

"We want to be able to feature installation art. Keep it clean and keep it simple," says owner Jake Greatens.

Turchin and Valle's works will be on display from May 31 through July 3. Turchin is known for eye-popping color and patterns in his graffiti inspired art. His art has been commissioned by celebrities such as Barbra Streisand, Lance Bass and Lisa Vanderpump.

Valle is a painting instructor at University of Tampa who has exhibited nationally and internationally in museums and galleries. His art explores the influences of entertainment on sexual roles, norms and stereotypes.

Exhibits will change every two to three months. The Greatens are looking for artists for the next exhibit.

The art at CASS is about what it means to an individual not whether it matches the home decor. 

"It's what's amazing and speaks to you," says Cassie Greatens. "We want the gallery to have movement, not just sit here and have art on the wall."

The couple are from Lakeland, Fl., and graduated from the University of Tampa. Jake Greatens creates mixed, media paintings and anticipates an exhibit of his work in about eight months.

In the future, the couple hope to offer an internship. They plan to invite emerging and established artists to offer workshops and lectures.

"We're trying to be more interactive," says Jake Greatens.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Jake Greatens, CASS

Two Fold Bicycle Shop Opens In St. Petersburg

A new bicycle shop in St. Petersburg caters to enthusiasts who want the zip and portability of bicycles that can be folded to the size of carry-on luggage. Or tucked into a back pack. 

On May 10 Michael Davis will hold a grand opening for Two Fold Bicycle Shop at 657 N. Central Ave. The shop, which quietly opened at the beginning of the month, deals exclusively in folding bicycles made by major brand names Brompton, Dahon and Tern. Shortly Davis will add bicycles from Bike Friday, an Oregon company that custom-makes folding bicycles.

"They are fun to ride," says Davis, who also designs and builds wheel frames. "People who are into them really get into them. You can see them out there. It is a trend that is picking up now."

Their popularity makes sense to a lot of people who are embracing the new urban lifestyle. And, while his shop is in St. Petersburg, his first two sales were to residents of downtown Tampa's growing high-rise community.

The folding bicycles have smaller wheels, quick acceleration and ease of steering. Hinges allow for the bicycles to be folded up for easy storage at work or at home. And for multi-modal commuters they are easily carried on and off buses.

Prices range from about $400 for a one-gear folding bicycle to more sophisticated models that can cost $3,500 or more.

Davis is an avid bicyclist himself. He formerly owned 66 Fixed Gear and Singlespeed, a St. Petersburg shop that did repairs and sold custom-made bicycles. But it was a trip last year to the Interbike International Bicycle Expo in Las Vegas that spurred Davis to focus his newest business on the expo's break-out star.

 "Everybody was talking about folding bicycles," he says.

The bicycles originally were invented for use by military forces in war times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Until recently they often were novelty items tucked away in a shop corner.

That is changing along with the urban landscape.

Condominiums and apartments are going up in downtown St. Petersburg and Tampa. The Central Avenue district in St. Petersburg is stirring to life with new boutique shops, art galleries, restaurants, offices and neighborhood bars. College students and young professionals are embracing the urban experience.

Tampa has at least five residential towers slated for construction in the next few years in downtown and Channel District.

The folding bicycles are the right fit, Davis says, for people who have to go up and down elevators, share space with roommates or just want a healthier living environment with fewer automobile trips. 

"Once you get folding bicycles in front of people, they practically sell themselves," says Davis.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Michael Davis, Two Fold Bicycle Shop


 

Frolic Exchange Brings Bohemian Chic To Seminole Heights

A mother-daughter duo is bringing Bohemian chic to Seminole Heights with their new clothing shop called Frolic Exchange.

Bree and Nancy Denicourt will hold a grand opening on May 10. The shop, at 4634 N. Florida, is the brick-and-mortar version of an online business selling vintage, recycled and designer clothes and accessories.

"We do pretty well there," says 22-year-old Bree Denicourt of the online business. "But, I was getting bored and decided I wanted a physical site."

Frolic Exchange held a preview party in April, sponsored by Tampa Bay Brewing Company, and featuring live music.  Future store events will utilize an outdoor patio area.

Bree Denicourt has been a fan of vintage clothing for years and started the online venture more than two years ago. "I obsessively collected them even if they didn't fit me," she says.

The shop features racks of vintage and designer dresses, vests, jackets, crop tops, tie-up blouses, pencil skirts, swim suits, jewelry, purses and more. There also is a men's section that includes T-shirts, jackets, pants and hand-made bow ties. 

Frolic Exchange fits snugly between the art gallery Tempus Projects and mid-century modern furniture store, A Modern Line

Last year Seminole Heights' resident Andrew Watson opened Built in a small warehouse building at 4501 N. Florida. He designs and makes custom furniture and fixtures for residential and commercial clients including The Bricks in Ybor City and the Bends in St. Petersburg. Most recently he did the table tops for the soon-to-open Ulele Restaurant in Tampa Heights.

To the north of these new businesses, Florida has blossomed in recent years with locally owned businesses including Cappy's Pizza, Microgroove, Independent, Cleanse Apothecary, Forever Beautiful Salon & Wine Spa, Sherry's YesterDaze Vintage Clothing and Antiques and The Refinery.

Now it seems this stretch of Florida, south of Violet Street, is ready for action.

"There's a little boom happening," says Watson. "We decided to be part of that."

Bree Denicourt sees a synergy developing among the businesses settling along Florida.

 "People are going to want to stop and spend time here," she says.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Bree Denicourt, Frolic Exchange; Andrew Watson, Built 

New Hotels Open In St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach

Two new hotels are planning grand openings -- Staybridge Suites in downtown St. Petersburg and The Hotel Zamora in St. Pete Beach.

Overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, The Hotel Zamora  is bringing Spanish-Mediterranean charm to Gulf Boulevard along with a new dining destination -- the Castile Restaurant. Tatro Construction is nearing completion of what is the first hotel built in St. Pete Beach in more than two decades.

A June opening is planned for the hotel and the restaurant which will have a roof top lounge. The hotel is named for one of the oldest regions in Spain; the restaurant for a town in Zamora.

The upscale boutique hotel is the vision of developers and partners Henry Suarez and Kiran Patel. Once mired in bankruptcy, they salvaged what was initially a condominium project and won approval last year for the hotel from St. Pete Beach City Commission.

"It will bring a new vibe. It's very modern in design. It's South Beach trendy but in  St. Pete Beach," says Tom Robertson, general manager for The Hotel Zamora.

Interior design is by Miami-based Cuba-Fernandez Design, Inc.; the hotel's architecture is by Tampa-based Design Styles Architecture.

While the real estate market collapse initially shut down the project, The Hotel Zamora, at 3701 Gulf Blvd., now is a sign that an economic recovery is gaining traction.

"The nice thing about seeing new construction is that developers can feel confident about moving forward with their own projects," says Andy Dohmen, president of Design Styles. "It's when you see nothing going up that you get nervous."

Castile Restaurant  will offer a seafood-based menu from fresh, local sources. There also will be steaks, tapas-style dishes, soups and salads under the direction of Ted Dorsey, former executive chef at Tampa's Boca Kitchen & Food Market.

The hotel sits on more than an acre of beach front property with the Gulf of Mexico on one side and the Intracoastal Waterway on the other side. There are 72 rooms total but guests can chose to combine adjoining rooms or stay in two-bedroom suites. Some "junior suites" have a separate living room with a sofa sleeper.

Most rooms offer water views with eight having full beach views on the Gulf side. There is a marina with boat slips. A fresh-water pool is half outside, half under the shade of the hotel's flooring. In Florida's hot climate it's  "the best of both worlds", Robertson says.

In downtown St. Petersburg, developer Anthony Menna of Menna Development & Management built Staybridge Suites on what was once an overflow parking lot for Tampa Bay Rays' baseball games.

The extended-stay hotel opened earlier this year but plans to celebrate its grand opening May 1.

Located at 940 Fifth Ave., just off Interstate 175, Staybridge is nestled amid the medical district adjacent to All Children's Hospital and Bayfront Medical Center. But it also is within easy access of  shopping and dining on Beach Drive, baseball at Tropicana Field, the University of South Florida's St. Petersburg (USFSP) campus and art exhibits at the Dali and St. Petersburg Fine Arts museums.

Guests  enjoy suites with large kitchenettes, a heated pool, fitness center and a sun deck with a fire pit and BBQ grill. There is more than 2,000 square feet of meeting space for  conventions, business meetings or special events.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Sources: Andy Dohmen, Design Styles; Tom Robertson, The Hotel Zamora

Ridgewood Park Opens A Little Free Library

Electronic readers and tablets may be the wave of the future for many book readers. But an old concept -- the free lending library of printed books -- is finding new life in neighborhoods wanting to build a sense of community.
 
The concept has been popularized by Wisconsin nonprofit, Little Free Library, since 2009. The libraries pop up in yards, along bicycle trails and in parks in the guise of small wood boxes perched on thick posts and stuffed with paper books. The idea is to take a book to read and leave a book for someone else to read.
 
On April 12 Ridgewood Park residents will celebrate their Little Free Library, located in a linear park in the 2300 block of Glenwood Drive, off Columbus Drive. 
 
A day of celebration kicks off at 11:30 a.m. with refreshments and live music. Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner is a guest speaker for the unveiling. The free library is funded with a mini-grant from the county's neighborhood relations office.
 
"I've wanted one for ages for the neighborhood," says Stacey Warder, president of the Ridgewood Park Crime Prevention and Civic Association. "It's not only literacy building, it's a unique piece of art. It's community building."
 
Ridgewood's Little Free Library is joining nearly 15,000 other libraries that have sprouted across the world. Wisconsin craftsman, Todd Bol, started the literacy movement when he built a tiny replica of a one-room school house and set it out on his lawn. He placed a sign saying "free books" and invited neighbors to share and swap books. Bol was honoring his mother, a former school teacher with a passion for reading.
 
The Ridgewood library resembles a little house. Warder added a coat of primer and artist Angie Cannata, of Lodestar Studio, constructed a glass mosaic with trees and a tin roof. Cannata also crafted a glass mosaic with the neighborhood's logo and Tampa's skyline in the background, which was installed on a storm drain cover. The neighborhood of bungalows is bounded by Columbus Avenue, North Boulevard and the Hillsborough River.
 
Shellie Posey will serve as library steward, checking to make sure the box is supplied with a mix of title selections. Initially, about 30 or so donated books will fill the box. 
 
Warder says a second library box has been ordered for children's books. It will be placed next to the first Little Free Library, and also added to the world map.
 
As an official Little Free Library, the site will be added to the Little Free Library's world map. "It's quite impressive," Warder says. "They are all over the world."
 
Little Free Library encourages the spread of these free libraries in a variety of ways. They sell the ready-made libraries but they are just as happy to see other nonprofits, individuals or organizations adopt the concept and build their own.
 
Mitzi Gordon, founder of Bluebird Books Bus, is a free library enthusiast whose nonprofit has sponsored four free libraries, two in St. Petersburg and two in Tampa. The most recent was set up in Seminole Heights.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Stacey Warder, Ridgewood Park Crime Prevention and Civic Association
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